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The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami is preparing to indict alleged “dirty bomber” suspect Jose Padilla as early as next month on terror-related charges, according to a well-placed Justice Department source. The filing of an indictment, which would come on orders from the White House, would effectively end Padilla’s two-year status as a federal detainee without charge. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to rule on Padilla’s lawsuit challenging his detention. The Court said Padilla should have named as a defendant the military officer in charge of the U.S. Navy brig where he is being held, not Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. But as a practical matter, the detention question could well become moot if the government names Padilla in an active criminal case now unfolding in the Southern District of Florida. A Justice Department source has told the Daily Business Review that Padilla, a U.S. citizen who lived near Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in the mid-1990s, would be charged in a superseding indictment in the terror case against a former friend, Adham Amin Hassoun. Hassoun is a Sunrise, Fla., computer programmer who also has been in federal custody for two years. He faces more than 50 years in prison following indictments in January and March on gun possession, lying and obstruction of justice charges related to his alleged efforts to promote “global jihad.” President Bush, according to the Justice Department source, will personally decide whether federal prosecutors in Miami will ask a grand jury to name Padilla as a Hassoun co-defendant. It is not known what types of allegations would be brought against Padilla. Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell R. Killinger has told a federal judge that new charges are likely to be filed in Hassoun’s case through a superseding indictment as early as mid-July. Killinger declined to discuss the matter, or to confirm that Padilla is a target. New York lawyer Donna R. Newman, Padilla’s court-appointed attorney, did not say whether she knows her client will soon be charged. “We’d heard rumors,” she said. Newman said she is going to seek a hearing for her client in U.S. District Court in South Carolina “as soon as possible.” She said if Padilla is charged, he would formally enter the criminal justice system and she would expect his case to “proceed in the normal course.” Reached at his summer home in Massachusetts, Fort Lauderdale lawyer Fred Haddad, who represents Hassoun, initially declined to comment on the government’s plans to name Padilla as a co-defendant of his client. Asked again, Haddad said, “It’s not outside the realm of possibility.” The Justice Department source who spoke on condition of anonymity would not disclose the substance of the proposed criminal charges against Padilla, 33, in South Florida. But the Daily Business Review has learned they involve terror allegations other than the most sensational accusations against Padilla — that he plotted with top leaders of al-Qaida to detonate a nuclear device in a U.S. city or blow up apartment buildings. After he is indicted, Padilla’s detention at the Navy’s Consolidated Brig in Charleston, S.C., would end. He would be turned over to civilian authorities by the Department of Defense and be brought to Miami for arraignment and trial, the Justice Department source said. Newly appointed U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke would preside over the case. Cooke, a former chief inspector general for the president’s brother Gov. Jeb Bush, was randomly assigned to the Hassoun case by the clerk’s office on June 8, shortly after her arrival on the bench, according to court documents. EXPANDING INVESTIGATION On Friday, the Daily Business Review reported that recent government court filings disclosed that the existing criminal charges against Hassoun are part of a “wider, ongoing” terror probe involving “unindicted co-conspirators” who have not been identified. Hassoun’s indictment accused him of perjuring himself to hide his work raising funds and recruiting fighters in support of a “global jihad.” Hassoun, detained without bond in the Palm Beach County Jail, has pleaded not guilty. Hassoun is appealing to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta a deportation order issued in secret against him in December 2002 by a U.S. immigration judge in Miami. Hassoun acknowledges that he crossed paths with Padilla in the 1990s, when the two men attended the same Fort Lauderdale mosque. Hassoun was detained in 2002 for overstaying the visa he used to enter the country in 1989. After hearing confidential evidence from the FBI, the judge branded Hassoun a “terrorist,” and declared he’d “had contact” with al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Padilla was arrested May 8, 2002, on arrival at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago on a material witness warrant issued by a Manhattan federal court in connection with a grand jury investigation into the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He allegedly was carrying $10,000 in al-Qaida cash. But Hassoun, who has read some of the 10,000 pages of national security wiretap transcripts that were recently declassified and released to his attorney in pretrial discovery, said in interviews last week that the government is seriously considering adding Padilla as a co-defendant in Hassoun’s case. “This, unfortunately, is what is going on. Whoever is in charge is allowing this to happen,” Hassoun said in a telephone interview. “This is before the election. Ashcroft wants to make a big case now.” Hassoun said in another interview Friday that he figures the odds are “50-50″ that Padilla will be charged as part of his case. Hassoun said the government is trying to turn what he described as his limited and harmless friendship with Padilla into something sinister. He said the two became acquainted in 1996 or 1997 when they worshipped together. When Padilla flew in 1998 from Miami to Cairo, where he spent the next 18 months, Hassoun helped raise money for Padilla’s airline ticket and to help him get settled in Egypt. “We asked the community to chip in,” Hassoun said. Between 1998 and 2000, Padilla telephoned Hassoun several times to say hello. Hassoun said the conversations amounted to small talk about Padilla’s new life in Egypt — how he’d learned Arabic, taught English in a local school, gotten married and fathered a child. “I didn’t talk more than five times with Padilla,” Hassoun said. But U.S. national security agents apparently bugged those calls. Hassoun said that transcripts were among more than 10,000 pages of declassified Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act intercepts that were released to comply with pretrial discovery requirements. They remain hidden from public view by a protective order. “Hearing them again, there’s nothing,” Hassoun said in an interview Friday at the main Palm Beach County Jail. He said the Justice Department was trying to make him a “scapegoat” in the war on terror. “They’re trying to make some science fiction story,” said Hassoun, who also uses the alias, Abu Sayyaf, according to the government. “They have something big here and it’s like a maze. ‘Look at what characters we have: Padilla, Hassoun, El Shukrijuma.’ They’ve got something they have to bring to court.” Hassoun was referring to Adnan G. El Shukrijuma, another ex-Broward, Fla., resident, pilot and former acquaintance at the mosque and today one of seven fugitive al-Qaida suspects who are the focus of an intense international manhunt. Attorney General Ashcroft has said Shukrijuma and others are planning a major attack this summer on American soil. Shukrijuma is not involved in the Hassoun case, the Justice Department source said. However, most of the accusations in Hassoun’s pending indictment involve alleged lies to federal authorities about financial and other assistance that he gave to a Muslim jihad fighter named Mohamed Youssef. In the interview Friday, Hassoun said Youssef was a former American Airlines employee in South Florida who moved to Egypt in 1996 or 1997. As he would do later for Padilla, Hassoun said, he raised $5,000 to help the U.S.-Egyptian dual national transition to his new life. The money was raised and sent after Youssef moved, Hassoun said. The FBI told Hassoun that Youssef is in an Egyptian jail but didn’t say why. “I helped them, and others. I am a person you can rely on. That’s why they kept calling me,” Hassoun said. But if Youssef and Padilla joined the jihad insurrectionists, they did it after he helped them, Hassoun said. “Am I responsible for everyone I met in my life? [Am I responsible] if they have a change of heart or in the direction of their life? It’s not fair. It’s a very lousy assumption” by the FBI. Hassoun said the Padilla he knew was a sincere young man who wanted to learn all about his adopted religion, Islam. “I never knew he had a past and was a gang member,” Hassoun said. After Padilla moved to Egypt he complained to Hassoun that he “didn’t like the culture.” Hassoun said he advised Padilla to “come home, but he didn’t want to come.” According to the United States, Padilla ultimately chose to travel to Afghanistan in 2000. There, allegedly by his own admission, Padilla received training at an al-Qaida camp and went on to talk about dirty bombs and blowing up apartment houses with the likes of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged operational leader of al-Qaida and mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks. Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey detailed those alleged plots at a press conference in Washington on June 1. A reporter asked Comey whether the Justice Department had any plans to present evidence of those plots to a grand jury. “No, we do not have any plans to present this, the information I’ve given you today, to a grand jury. I don’t believe that we could use this information in a criminal case, because we deprived him of access to his counsel and questioned him in the absence of counsel,” Comey responded, according to a CNN.com transcript. Such a definitive statement appears to rule out charging Padilla in any U.S. District Court with bomb plots or other crimes that Padilla might have discussed while being interrogated. Hassoun said no legitimate charges linking him with Padilla are possible because neither man committed a crime. He said that without proof he could not believe what the United States has said about Padilla. “If I am going to believe what they are saying about him, I have to believe everything they are saying about me,” Hassoun said.

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